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The Bongo dynasty: Leading Gabon for over five decades

The Bongo dynasty: Leading Gabon for over five decades


The political dynasties across Africa continue to reduce over the years. They are largely absent across most parts of Africa except for Central Africa.

Central Africa largely because, most of Africa’s sit-tight presidents operate within that region. Gabon is one nation currently operating one such dynasty.

The Bongo name has been associated with the presidency since 1967. A long serving father died in office and his son was elected to take over.

African presidents who died in office: Gaddafi, Bongo et. al.

Omar Bongo Ondimba came to power in 1967 taking over from the country’s first president Leon M’ba. At the time of his demise on June 8, 2009, he was one of the continent’s longest serving leaders.

He was in charge of Gabon for precisely 42 years and 175 days – at the time, the sixth-longest-ruling non-royal national leader since 1900. With 42 years for Bongo senior, Ali has been in charge so far for ten years which brings the total Bongo years to fifty-two.

Having led the oil-rich country for so long, he died aged 72 in the Spanish city of Barcelona.The “official” cause of death was an undisclosed illness.

Ali Bongo is not the only child of the late president. Others include Pascaline Bongo Ondimba, Albertine Amissa Bongo and Frederic Bongo Ondimba – who is currently head of the intelligence agency.

How Ali Bongo came in

Then a minister of state, Ali Bongo took over the reins in the oil-rich Central African nation in 2009 following the death of his father Omar Bongo.

Years on, the status of his birth became an issue during campaigns for the 2016 presidential elections. He is widely reported as being an adopted rather than biological son of Omar Bongo. Gabonese law requires that a presidential candidate must be a full citizen.

In its ruling on an application on the issue, the Constitutional Court, referred to the elections body’s position that Bongo was eligible to run for office.

All nine judges outrightly dismissed the application saying it was considered inadmissible because Ali Bongo’s birth certificate was not on file. Moreover, the Court declined jurisdiction to assess the authenticity of a person’s civic status.

Eventually, Ali Bongo won hotly contested polls to secure his second term in charge. The main opponent and former colleague minister, Jean Ping, unsuccessfully contested the results.

Ping, a former African Union chief, insists he was the constitutionally elected president. His most recent claim came in the wake of Bongo’s ill-health and hospitalization in Saudi Arabia.

Timeline of Bongo’s hospitalization

  • October 25 – Bongo admitted to the King Fahd hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – source at presidency tells Jeune Afrique.
  • October 29 – Government confirms hospitalization, warns against spread of fake news
  • October 31 – Cameroon channel banned for six-months for reporting Bongo’s death
  • November 11 – Bongo recovering his faculties, remains in charge – Presidency
  • November 14 – Opposition demands clarity on Bongo’s health
  • November 15 – Constitutional Court orders veep to chair cabinet meeting in Bongo’s absence
  • November 21 – Jeune Afrique reports Bongo to convalesce in London
  • November 24 – Venue of convalescence changes from London to Rabat
  • November 29 – Bongo is flown to Morocco for medical recovery
  • December 4 – First photos of Bongo pops up as Moroccan King visits him
  • December 6 – Top government officials visit him in Rabat
  • December 10 – Vice-president confirms that he suffered a stroke
  • January 1, 2019 – Delivers New Year address from Rabat

Brief: Republic of Gabon

1 – National capital / official languages = Libreville / French
2 – Currency in circulation = ‎ Central African CFA franc
3 – Current political leader = Ali Bongo Ondimba
4 – Population estimate = 1,772,255 (July 2017 est.)
5 – Date of independence = August 17, 1960
6 – Country codes: telephone ‎(+241), internet (.ga)

Map of the country

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon

_ Central African CFA franc_

Libreville, Capital city

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